Alaska Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Don Young, the dynamic duo that brought us the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere," have long been known as the unrepentant kings of pork on Capitol Hill, funneling billions of dollars in federal money to their far-off state.
Now the law is inspecting whether Stevens and Young illegally lined their own pockets in the process. According to today’s Wall Street Journal, "federal investigators are examining whether Rep. Young and Sen. Stevens accepted bribes, illegal gratuities and unreported gifts from VECO Corp., Alaska’s largest oil-field engineering firm."
As former chairman of powerful committees, the cantankerous duo are the highest-ranking members of Congress to be ensnared in the flurry of corruption cases in Washington.
The Journal reports that "VECO has won a string of federal contracts in recent years" but it isn’t known which contracts are the subject of the investigation. Stories have come to light about how Young earmarked federal money to benefit campaign contributors in states as distant to him as Florida. The current probe may prove a repeat performance, albeit with more local roots.
Here’s what is known: VECO employees gave $157,000 to Young over the past ten years and VECO CEO Bill Allen threw a "Pig Roast" fundraiser for him every August. Earlier this year Allen plead guilty to trying to bribe members of the Alaska state legislature, including Stevens’s son Ben, paying him $243,250 for "giving advice, lobbying colleagues and taking acts in matters before the legislature."
Allen bought a racehorse with Stevens, supervised the remodeling of his home in 2000 and dined with him frequently. Last fall FBI agents raided Ben’s office and recently told Stevens to preserve documents pertaining to the case.
We are witnessing an old story, with new characters. The mixture of bravado, excess and avarice that elevated Stevens and Young in Washington may also bring them down.